Simply Smiles and the UCC
Partners in providing bright futures since 2003
The Simply Smiles partnership with the United Church of Christ has guided and driven our launch and success as an internationally impactful not-for-profit organization. Since 2003, thousands of UCC members have discovered that supporting the work of Simply Smiles is a meaningful expression of their personal faith and the principles of the United Church of Christ.
service trips endorsed by:
For almost 20 years, I have led youth group service trips, and, simply put, Simply Smiles is the best I’ve seen.
Rev. Andy Nagy-Benson • Congregational Church of Middlebury, VT, UCC
One of the great blessings in my life is the opportunity to be part of the work of Simply Smiles: the most authentic experience of Kingdom work that I have experienced.
Rev. Laura Westby • Interim pastor, CT UCC
Bryan Nurnberger, President and Founder of Simply Smiles, grew up in the Naugatuck, Connecticut, Congregational Church. As a high schooler, he became president of Naugatuck’s Pilgrim Fellowship Youth Group, where he actively participated in service work locally, at H.O.M.E. in Orland, Maine, and at the LaRomana Mission in the Dominican Republic.
In 2002, Bryan was injured while working as a mountain climbing guide. Recuperating in Mexico, he found a struggling orphanage and offered to volunteer. The children he encountered there, who were Zapotec, Mixtec, Mixe, and Chinanteco Indians, inspired him to create Simply Smiles.
Upon hearing his stories from the orphanage, his home congregation in Naugatuck sprang into action, filling a used school bus with donations, and blessing Simply Smiles’ first major initiative - a 3,000 mile bus trip adventure from Connecticut to Mexico.
The First Congregational Church of Bethlehem, CT became the very first UCC church to participate in a Simply Smiles service trip, traveling to Oaxaca, Mexico in 2004.
Simply Smiles’ first two office spaces were donated by the congregational churches in Naugatuck and Southport, CT. This allowed the organization to expand its operations, and in 2009, Simply Smiles began working on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation in South Dakota. Volunteer groups began helping on the Reservation the following year.
The Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ recognized Bryan in 2010 with the Living Waters Award, the highest honor given to laypeople for “outstanding Christian ministry, life, and witness that is done outside the church setting as an expression of one’s faith.”
In 2015, Bryan Nurnberger’s pastor from Naugatuck, Rev. Gordon Rankin, was installed as the South Dakota UCC Conference Minister, after having travelled to South Dakota several times on Simply Smiles service trips. Together, Bryan and Gordon begin a relationship between Simply Smiles and the UCC churches on the Cheyenne River Reservation.
In 2017, The Dakota Association of 13 Lakota UCC churches voted unanimously to partner with Simply Smiles, offering the organization eight acres of their Reservation land.
Today, more than 5,000 UCC members support the work of Simply Smiles - including through service trip opportunities recognized and endorsed by the UCC national office.
regional & national youth events
Bryan has shared his story of growing up in a service-minded congregational church and of the Simply Smiles-UCC partnership at these recent events:
West Central Regional Youth Event 2018 • Keynote Address & Workshop Presentation
Great Lakes Regional Youth Event 2018 • Keynote Address & Workshop Presentation
Eastern Regional Youth Event 2018 • Keynote Address & Workshop Presentation
National Youth Event 2017 • Workshop Presentation
interested in partnering with simply smiles?
Volunteer with us on the Reservation in South Dakota or in Mexico.
We can provide a guest sermon, a presentation during second hour after worship, or a presentation to your missions board.
Donate to support our community-building work.
This was easily the best and most organized mission trip that I've ever taken a group on.
Rev. Dr. Chris Davies • UCC National, Cleveland, OH
It's a rare privilege to be part of an experience where you can see & know that people's lives were changed. Such was the case for our youth group, and we are truly grateful!
Rev. Mark Abernethy • Wapping UCC, CT
Partner churches who have recently volunteered with Simply Smiles:
Ann Arbor Congregational Church, MI
Chester Congregational Church, CT
Fairfield First Congregational Church, CT
Farmington Valley Association of the UCC, CT
Guilford Community Church, VT
Middlebury Congregational Church, VT
Monroe Congregational Church, CT
Plymouth Congregational Church, KS
Round Hill Community Church, CT
Rowayton Congregational Church, CT
Roxbury Congregational Church, CT
Silver Lake Conference Center Youth Camp, CT
Stamford Congregational Church, CT
Wapping Congregational Church, CT
Woodmont Congregational Church, CT